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  • Mooch
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So many ideas, so little talent.
This is gonna be a long, rambling, personal topic. You have been warned.

Like probably everybody here, I've dreamed of making videogames pretty much since as far back as I can remember. I was, oh, five or six years old when Link to the Past came out, and as soon as I'd played it the first time, I broke out my Mr. Sketch markers and folded some blank paper hamburger-style, and made a game booklet for "my Zelda game," The Legend of Zelda: Ganon's Revenge!

I drew up the inventory, which included a bunch of new items, wrote up the story, simplistic though it was. I even made a mock legal page and copyright notice.

I always saw game creation as a dream, though. Until I was 14 I didn't even have an internet-connected computer, just an old Tandy, so I had no idea there were really programs to easily let you make your own games. So I focused my path in education on things unrelated to game development, assuming I'd never create a game.

Now here we are, in the midst of the indie gaming boom, and I'm thinking, "I can do it. There's no reason I can't make a game -- all the resources lie before me. I just gotta stick with it, and do it."

...

But I have absolutely no artistic ability, no composing ability despite musical inclination, and utterly rudimentary programming skills. I mean, I've been messing around with the likes of RPGMaker, Game Maker and ZZT for a decade, and I have nothing to show for it. Honestly? I'm not a programmer. I'm just not technically-minded enough.

Oh, sure; if I keep at it, I'm sure I'll be able to churn out a meager offering, but nothing that people would come to adore, if they'd even consent to playing it at all.

No, see, I lack technical skill. What I have...are ideas.

I know, I know -- everybody thinks they have fantastic ideas, if only someone would give them a chance! But I really do. Over the past two decades, I've written up design documents of varying degrees of completeness and sophistication for all sorts of games I wanna make. It's just that, even the simplest ones are beyond my skills, and probably always will be.

And there's some great, original ideas in there, I think. At least, it's not all "imagine Zelda mixed with GTA!" Which is as sophisticated an idea as most people put forth; "X meets Y." Here's some brief examples of the kinds of things I've got kicking around inside my head.

A.I. Love You: A puzzle game that you don't actually play. Instead, you drop blocks onto a grid to "program" a robot, who then tries to solve puzzles. The more successful it is, the more and better kinds of blocks you get to rewrite your robot and even build new ones to help it solve bigger and bigger puzzles.

Fame Frame: Okay, bear with me. Imagine a giant octagonal arena, and along each side are two tall sheets of glass (like an antfarm). Inbetween the sheets of glass are platforms and little enemies and powerups, and you control a character in one of these eight antfarm-like things, and you do typical platformer stuff -- beat up the enemies, jump over the lava, etc.

But that's not the point of the game. For every powerup you get, enemy you defeat, etc., troops are sent into the octagon on behalf of your character. The octagon itself is covered with a terrain and resources and monsters, and your units collect the resources and build stuff and fight monsters and other players units.

Also, the platforms in the "antfarms" are continuously falling, so you're essentially always heading upwards, and though you're normally restricted to your own antfarm, sometimes you can teleport into other characters' and try to kill them, or mess stuff up for them. Their character will just respawn in twenty seconds or so, but that's twenty seconds in which they aren't sending troops into the octagon.

Stoic Llama: Okay, again, bear with me. The game's a timed puzzle-ish game that takes place in various thematic playset type things (a haunted mansion, a breezy meadow, a circus bigtent, etc.) and in the center is a gigantic, very bored-looking llama. Your goal is to use the various objects in the level to get some sort of emotional reaction from the llama, be it fright, laughter, whatever.

You could set up big rube-goldberg machines, make objects come to life and dance around, purposefully get yourself beat up by NPCs, do tricks, all sorts of things. You only have a limited time, though. And sometimes there could be specific missions, like, "Make the llama laugh without jumping," or "Only knock over one item" (i.e. you couldn't run around smashing things, you'd more-or-less have to set up a one-shot rube-goldberg machine to elicit emotion from the camelid).

~ ~ ~

And that's just three among literally five or six dozen games I have under my hat. And they're not just loose ideas, either -- if I found myself the head of a gaming company tomorrow, I could immediately start work on any one of those dozens of games; they're that well fleshed-out.

The only thing stopping me from making all the many games I want to is a lack of talent. I can't do graphics of any kind, I can't really churn out sound effects or music in any reasonable amount of time, and even though I've been messing around with game creation engines and such for a decade, I have the novice-est of novice programming ability.

*big breath out*

I suppose the only thing to do is try and churn out one of my games all on my own, with crappy graphics and no sound and horrendous programming, and then show it off in the hopes that I can court people to make decent graphics and some sound and help clean up my code. Then, with something professional-looking, we can go to Kickstarter and hope to get it off the ground for real, and if we meet success, we could start our own indie gaming company and I could be Director/Producer/Writer/Creative Lead/etc. and get these games made without having to do the coding, graphics or sound myself.

*sigh*

If only I had more talent. The games I'd churn out...

  • DaVince
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Re: So many ideas, so little talent.
Reply #1
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If only I had more talent. The games I'd churn out...

I don't think it's about talent as much as it is about effort. Want to get good at one thing? Stick with it for a while, practice it crazy amounts until you feel like you could make something with it, and then try it out.

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I'm not a programmer. I'm just not technically-minded enough.

From what I've seen you do, I think you'll be fine in this regard. It just takes some proper getting used to all the different concepts in coding and what you use them for. In other words... Keep going! Test out new things you learned in small games first. Solve one problem at a time, and at some point you'll automatically start getting problem solving skills - things like "Okay, if I want to accomplish this, I'll have to do this and this" - as you get more familiar with Sphere (or whatever other language you'd use).

Another tip - work together with others. Maybe even have some live coding sessions where you can watch someone type the code. Or just find really well-documented code, where each step is explained. (It's also good to explain each step for yourself as you write it.) I'll tell you that I was terrible at Sphere scripting when I first tried it, and when I came back a year later it all just clicked and I managed to start becoming able to make my games.

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I know, I know -- everybody thinks they have fantastic ideas, if only someone would give them a chance! But I really do. Over the past two decades, I've written up design documents of varying degrees of completeness and sophistication for all sorts of games I wanna make.

That's awesome. Do they include things like storyboards or screen mockups? Are you actively pursuing and learning about what is considered good (and bad!) game design, as well as how to design a useful, straightforward user interface? How much time do you spend thinking about a player's interaction with the game and the navigation throughout the game states and menus? If you get good at this kind of stuff and work with some people in a (small) team, you'll at least have these skills that have a lot to do with being a game designer to your name. :)

Now, about your ideas.
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A.I. Love You: A puzzle game that you don't actually play. Instead, you drop blocks onto a grid to "program" a robot, who then tries to solve puzzles. The more successful it is, the more and better kinds of blocks you get to rewrite your robot and even build new ones to help it solve bigger and bigger puzzles.

It's probably because you explained it in very basic detail, but there's a whole bunch of robot programming games out there. I don't think most of them are that interesting; they all seem like student/learning projects. In any case, if you want to make this a cool game, it's all about the mechanics. How would you make this game really fun? Besides the mechanics, the way you style things, the way you reward or punish a player, the basic premise behind it or even the little details can really make a game so much more fun behind the basic idea of it. And yes, it's going to require you to draw some concept art, or think and rethink the mechanics a bunch of times, and try to code and test it out, but that's just going to make it better with each iteration.

Fame Frame sounds really interesting! Influencing an RTS part of the game by playing competently through a platformer? And the theme of having it all miniaturized is also fun. It does sound somewhat difficult to do as the game has several aspects to it that then also happen at the same time.

About Stoic Llama: these types of games tend to be difficult to make because of the large amount of objects, ideas and especially animations you would have to make. Especially since each one basically only lasts once or twice. Check out Little Inferno - it's all about burning stuff, and combining some stuff to burn, and getting many different results out of it. But after finishing that game once, I was basically done with it. Keeping a person's interest will be tough.


Oh, and finally, if you got discouraged partially because of Flippin' Matrix's code... let it be known that I overcomplicated that stuff anyway; code is hopping basically everywhere and I sometimes had issues backtracking where something went in order to fix some bugs, myself. There's a few different Sphere platformers you could check out the code for - I'll list a bunch I know here.
Some of my own: Project Keen, WindowJump, Mr Boingers, Sir Boingers, all available on my Sphere page.
Some full games people here have made: Zero's Impossible Fortress (very fun game, by the way!), Rework The Dead: Evil, a sea star game I don't remember the exact name of and can't find the download of right now (help me out, anyone!). And probably a bunch more, but these are the biggest ones I know.
Some other simple platforming tests people have made: Terrance Adventures, Flipside

  • Radnen
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Re: So many ideas, so little talent.
Reply #2

Oh, and finally, if you got discouraged partially because of Flippin' Matrix's code... let it be known that I overcomplicated that stuff anyway; code is hopping basically everywhere and I sometimes had issues backtracking where something went in order to fix some bugs, myself.


It was also a compo game! That means it was haphazardly written, I know mine was. ;)
If you use code to help you code you can use less code to code. Also, I have approximate knowledge of many things.

Sphere-sfml here
Sphere Studio editor here

  • N E O
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Re: So many ideas, so little talent.
Reply #3
a sea star game I don't remember the exact name of and can't find the download of right now (help me out, anyone!)


"Die Seesternkönigstochter" (Google Translation: "The Seastar Princess") by SDHawk (who made Zero's Impossible Fortress); for me, it was THE game which first proved side-scrolling platformers can be done in the default map engine.

My Google-fu is failing me on his most recent website URL but Wayback Machine has an old capture with a not-working download link (and the old wiki page on SDHawk). Also take a look at Linie Schiff (if you can DL it) for a Galaga-style shmup!
  • Last Edit: December 16, 2013, 03:50:22 pm by N E O

  • DaVince
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Re: So many ideas, so little talent.
Reply #4

a sea star game I don't remember the exact name of and can't find the download of right now (help me out, anyone!)


"Dee Seesternkonigstochter" (Google Translation: "The Seastar Princess") by SDHawk (who made Zero's Impossible Fortress)

My Google-fu is failing me on his most recent website URL but Wayback Machine has an old capture with a not-working download link (and the old wiki page on SDHawk). Also take a look at Schatz-Jager (if you can DL it) for a Galaga-style shmup!

Thanks. I could've sworn I had that on my disk somewhere, but I just can't seem to find it... If someone still has it, please upload to the repo!

  • N E O
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Re: So many ideas, so little talent.
Reply #5
Look for ds.zip if you haven't renamed your local copy after all these years.

  • DaVince
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Re: So many ideas, so little talent.
Reply #6
No luck. If I have it, it'll pop up eventually. Otherwise, it's hoping... Or could try contacting SDHawk about it.

  • Mooch
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Re: So many ideas, so little talent.
Reply #7
DaVince: Heh, don't worry, Flippin' Matrix didn't throw me off. I'm confident I could program something similar, though what took you 48 hours of sloppy code would take me 48 days of eyebleed-inducing code.

The problem is...well, there's several problems.

One, even if I spent say the next two years learning any given language inside-and-out, you know what that'd make me? A game designer who happens to have coding knowledge. Not a programmer. My skillset is twofold -- writing, and designing. That's what I'm best at, that's where my time is best-spent.

I mean, let's imagine the dream scenario: I manage to make a small indie game by myself, it becomes really popular, I form a small indie gaming "company" on the coattails of its fame and fortune. Do you know what I would spend my days doing, at that company? Not programming, not a chance -- I'd have coders who could write code way faster and better than me.

I'd spend my workday directing and producing -- going around to everyone, managing what they're working on ("Make that sprite a little bigger and a little lighter. And make his eyes more scowly." "Loop that part from 1:33 to 1:56 a few more times, it's a really neat tune, it needs more playtime." etc.).

We'd all work together to contribute ideas to any game we work on, obviously, but I'd ultimately be the one to come up with the game idea and plan it out almost fully and totally.

I can and have written a few game documents that are so thorough, so complete, if you handed them to a team of coders, graphics artists and sound engineers, they could churn out the game it describes without any fuss.

Every mechanic, every menu, every graphic, every item, every map, every cutscene, every line of text, every everything. I can plan all of that, on my own, and that's where I feel my time is best spent -- coming up with all that stuff from out of thin air.

Time I spend laborously writing the code, making the graphics, composing the sound, etc. is time wasted. You wouldn't ask an architect to put on a hardhat and physically build his own building. Yet we expect a game designer to build his or her own game.

There's no way I can convince people to work on my games, no matter how involved I would be in the process, organizing and coordinating everyone's work and so forth. Game design isn't seen as a legitimate profession, I'd be seen as doing "no work" while everyone else busts their hump coding and spriting and such. Or at least, it's seen as a reward for being one of those hump-busters for years on end.

Which leads me back to my core lamentation -- I have all these ideas, but if I want to get any of them into the light of day, I have to be able to code, myself. Which, given that coding isn't my specific forte (even if I can develop skill, even if I already have some, I'm fudamentally a designer, not a programmer), means...
A) I have to spend a huge amount of time producing something on my own, time better spent doing other things and,
B) Due to sub-standard coding skill I might not be able to produce a work worthy of being played, let alone admired, let alone the foundation upon which to build an indie gaming company.

All the best big-name game designers ~ Will Wright, Shigeru Miyamoto, Sid Meier, etc. ~ got their starts working as coders, artists, etc. for established gaming companies, then slowly worked their way up through the ranks to their current positions of being able to decide what games get made, and what those games are like.

I know it's selfish and arrogant, but I don't wanna toil as a low-level worker for a company for years and hope that eventually I can work my way up to game designer.

I can't walk that path, anyway. I have a bunch of medical conditions which prevent me from working any sort of normal job, or even finishing my college education. (Honestly, I shouldn't be posting on these forums or messing around with Sphere as much as I have been, but I've spent the past 18 months doing nothing all day everyday 'cause of severe joint and eye and ear and other problems. They've gotten slightly better recently, enough to lightly use a computer for about an hour, two or three times a day. But even that's pushing it; I may backslide and end up bedridden with pain and totally drop off the face of the internet, just from posting on these forums, pushing my broken hands to type text, staring my wretched eyes at a computer screen, subjecting my hyperacusis'd ears to the noise of a harddrive.)

</rant>

Anyway, I just randomly wrote a little bit about those three games to demonstrate that I'm not just BSing when I say I have good ideas. 'cause like I said, everyone thinks they're a genius, everyone thinks they have good ideas, and they don't. I actually do, and I can prove it.

Each of those games, just FYI, is really far developed; I just didn't want to describe them in explicit detail and make my already-too-long post absurdly long. You should know that I've planned games for a variety of platforms...

A.I. Love You is designed for phones and tablets, either free or $0.99. Fame Frame is intended to be an online Wii U game (your Frame is always displayed on the GamePad, the television screen automatically darts around the Arena). Stoic Llama could be for PC and/or any console. And I've got stuff designed for NES, NeoGeo, Dreamcast, all sorts of platforms.

I'm gonna stick with programming, no question. As preposterous as the odds are, it's the surest way I can achieve my dream of being the head of an indie gaming company. Still. It's a detour, a path to get where I really wanna go; programming, for me, is a means to an end. And it'll be a long journey, and I might fail. I just wish there were a shorter, surer path.

...

Random thought: surest and surer are fun, weird words to write.

  • DaVince
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Re: So many ideas, so little talent.
Reply #8
Your posts end up getting so damn long... (I don't mind, it's just that also means I have to take time to dedicate some time to reading and replying. :P)


One, even if I spent say the next two years learning any given language inside-and-out, you know what that'd make me? A game designer who happens to have coding knowledge. Not a programmer.

Guess what? That's what I am, too! Being able to code a bit will allow you to actually realize some of your ideas, though, which is something good, I think. More and more artists and designers pick up the simpler languages in order to make their own thing. Having languages that are simpler to learn actually enabled them to. For example, just look at this random adventure game or this silly game. I don't think it's a waste at all, but instead will empower you (and give you more varied experience!)

Of course, if it's something you just don't like doing... Well, you've tried!

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I mean, let's imagine the dream scenario: I manage to make a small indie game by myself, it becomes really popular, I form a small indie gaming "company" on the coattails of its fame and fortune. Do you know what I would spend my days doing, at that company? Not programming, not a chance -- I'd have coders who could write code way faster and better than me.

Yup. But you'd have made that game, and proven yourself that you're capable of designing a fun game.

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You wouldn't ask an architect to put on a hardhat and physically build his own building. Yet we expect a game designer to build his or her own game.

Did you know that every architect first learns how to build? Building a chair is part of everyone's curriculum, for example. This way, they learn something about the hardships of not just designing, but also building something, and will help them understand what is possible and what difficult to do. In any case, it is very, very advantageous to know at least something about everything you make. I'm fond of user experience design (and user interface design and all that), yet in school I've also learned marketing, change management, coding... and that's shaped me to be who I am now. All of these subjects have knowledge that help me be better at what I like doing.

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Game design isn't seen as a legitimate profession, I'd be seen as doing "no work" while everyone else busts their hump coding and spriting and such. Or at least, it's seen as a reward for being one of those hump-busters for years on end.

Hasn't that changed a bit by now? For example, just check out these people (note how a lot of them have previous other experience before getting into game writing, though...)
It's true that saying "I designed a game, will you make it for me?" won't get you anywhere. Unless you do one of three things: pitch to several businesses or investors why your game would be the Next Big Hit. Or form a team of interested people and just start making it... Or heck, make it yourself. Or try, fail, then post your work on dev forums (like here!) and ask for people to help you make the game at that point. I'm actually kind of interested in making a game with you sometime.

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time better spent doing other things

I don't believe that any time spent on designing or developing a game is badly spent; you always learn something. Though I do see your point about allocating the right task to the right person! Still, having knowledge in all the different fields also helps you give feedback, input or simply communicate your vision better to your co-developers.

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I don't wanna toil as a low-level worker

Okay, okay. I understand your point here about you more having a leader-like role when developing a game... but no one who is developing a game is a "low-level worker". They all contribute to making a game awesome. Heck, have you looked at Valve's company structure? It's super flat! People just cluster together in groups to start designing and developing a game or other project they're interested in - and anyone can start such a project and get others interested, too. Working together and counting on each other is just so much more satisfying (and bonding!) than someone from above telling you what to do. In a lot of games, almost everyone has some creative input (yes, even at Nintendo).


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I can't walk that path, anyway. I have a bunch of medical conditions which prevent me from working any sort of normal job, or even finishing my college education. (Honestly, I shouldn't be posting on these forums or messing around with Sphere as much as I have been, but I've spent the past 18 months doing nothing all day everyday 'cause of severe joint and eye and ear and other problems. They've gotten slightly better recently, enough to lightly use a computer for about an hour, two or three times a day. But even that's pushing it; I may backslide and end up bedridden with pain and totally drop off the face of the internet, just from posting on these forums, pushing my broken hands to type text, staring my wretched eyes at a computer screen, subjecting my hyperacusis'd ears to the noise of a harddrive.)

Ah, look... Now I finally understand why you have this opinion on the whole deal. It's because you're limited in what you're able to do. (I'm sorry to hear that, by the way... and I kind of recognize it, in a different and much less serious way.)


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I'm gonna stick with programming, no question. As preposterous as the odds are, it's the surest way I can achieve my dream of being the head of an indie gaming company. Still. It's a detour, a path to get where I really wanna go; programming, for me, is a means to an end. And it'll be a long journey, and I might fail. I just wish there were a shorter, surer path.

You know what is another way? Finding people who are interested in your game ideas, and you click and feel like you can really work together. Basically, a new indie studio. You'd basically be an ideas man, a quality control dude, and a person who encourages the other(s). It does not have to be all about "I joined a big company and worked my way up". Plenty of people start something new, and get somewhere... and when they don't, they'll have the experience, something for their portfolio, and a chance to give it another shot (especially if nothing's at stake). You can start with something small, something free, something simple... Just to get acquainted with the person you're trying to make something with. (And personal contact and presence is always a plus here :) )

  • Mooch
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Re: So many ideas, so little talent.
Reply #9
Damn your positive attitude, Vince. It's easy point-by-pointing someone who says something stupid or mindlessly aggressive; it's a lot harder when they're making good points with a good attitude.

To be clear on something, it's not that I don't like programming. Quite the contrary, I adore it. There's something intensely satisfying about producing code and having it work just like I want it. I'm working on something simple in Sphere right now, trying to do it on my own and not ask for any help (which is why I haven't posted anything about it yet), and the other day I wrote my text-input code, and found out on my own how to get it to work exactly how I wanted it to, and I was all giggly and happy about it for the whole rest of the day.

But! It took me more than three hours total. And the problem with that is that 1) you or Radnen or someone could've written it in five minutes and B) in that same three hours, I could've drawn up (on paper) a dozen maps or fleshed out an entire area's worth of enemies or something.

And the thing is, anyone can program; it's a skill that can be developed. Not that being a really good programmer is easy, it's really difficult, but anyone can become a good programmer by sticking with it. On the other hand, having really good ideas isn't a skill that can be developed -- you sorta either have them or you don't. So in that sense, programming is wasteful for me; anyone can do it, but not anyone can come up with the mechanics or levels or what have you that I can.

I get your point about how doing programming makes me a better designer, though. I didn't know that about the chairs, however, I think the reason they have architects do that is so that they can have a hands-on appreciation for building; so they don't design things that are ridiculous because of their ignorance of the physical manufacturing process. I already have an appreciation for code, though; I know enough to know what can and can't be done with today's technology and how easy or difficult various aspects of my games would be to code. Indeed, I always think in coding terms as I'm sitting down designing -- what kind of data structure would be used to represent these magic spells, where to put save points to make the data they save more regular and easier for the coders to handle, etc.

Just for clarification on one point -- those guys you linked to are game writers. I'm a game designer. They come up with stories. I come up with mechanics and levels and maps and enemies and items. And stories too, and it's not like I'd say no to a job working as a story writer for a gaming company, but only so I could schmooze with industry insiders and make a living. (FYI, I principally write fiction. I'm hoping to start looking for a publisher for my first book mid-next year, if I keep up the pace I'm at now. I also write the stories for my games, but that's just one aspect of my larger interest in writing.)

I completely didn't know that about Valve. I knew they had a pretty positive reputation (especially compared to someone like EA, who I hear treats their programmers in particular pretty rotten). In fact, I know very little about how existing companies are structured. I should probably read up on that.

...

I've decided something. I'm going to put all my design documents online.

There's a lot of stuff, and most of it's on paper and barely legible, and it's typically pretty esoterically written, so I'm gonna have to start fresh with almost everything, but I'm gonna do it.

I mean, you can't copyright ideas, so I'm not delusional about people "stealing my ideas." Plus, if I put all my awesome ideas online for anyone to see, and then a similar game comes out, I'll have hard proof that I came up with that idea on my own first. Not that I need it -- one neat idea is worth nothing; it's the ability to continuously produce good ideas that counts. And I can, and I'm gonna prove it.

Also, I'm not really interested in money apart from being able to feed and house myself, and I'm a pretty low-maintenence, material-possessions-light kinda guy anyway, I just wanna see my ideas come to fruition, so if someone came along and took a bunch of my ideas and put them into their game, I'd actually be thrilled. Especially if they had the decency to throw some credit my way and say "the original idea came from this guy named Mooch, he's got this cool website with a bunch of game ideas, and when I read such-and-such, I knew I just had to include it in our game."

I have literally no money, literally zero dollars and zero cents to my name, so I can't afford a dotcom, not even if I could get one for $1 a month. Guess I'll have to go with a free blog, since nobody pays attention to non-blog-style personal websites anymore. I'll post a link once I get it up. Probably take awhile, though; I'm pushing it with posting so often on the forums, my joints in my hands are acting up. I should probably take a break and wait until the new year. Thanks for your concern about that, by the way. I'm doing a lot better now than when my health started taking a nosedive in early 2012. Hopefully I'll just keep getting better until I'm back to normal.

Ah, and you know how I said I have about five or six dozen games under my hat? I just completely pulled that idea out of nowhere; it was a gross, random guess. I dug up a few of my master lists after writing my last post, and as it turns out, I actually have over 100. I have five dozen NES-style games alone. Add to that more graphically- and programatically-sophisticated games, and the number breaks triple digits ^_^

  • DaVince
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Re: So many ideas, so little talent.
Reply #10
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1) you or Radnen or someone could've written it in five minutes and

Not in the first month of using Sphere, I wouldn't. :P And I know for a fact Radnen didn't, either (I think he was struggling more in the beginning than I did, but he's also gotten further than I did (mostly because I reached a personal limit where coding is still interesting to do)). You're right about point B, though. But it makes sense - that's what you've already gotten good at, after all. (And uh... Point 1 and point B... I've heard that somewhere before!)

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On the other hand, having really good ideas isn't a skill that can be developed -- you sorta either have them or you don't.

Actually... It kind of is. There is so much you can do to get a more creative mind, one that is capable of getting better ideas. Creativity is actually something you can learn; heck, I had a half year course in uni called Creative Industries, which was totally about learning techniques to enable you to come up with better ideas. And the minor I'm currently following (Co-design) is all about working together with people who will use whatever you come up with, and all kinds of tools and techniques to come up with more ideas. It's just another thing that a person can inherently be good or not so good at (like you!), but I have seen inflexible people grow into more creative thinkers throughout these courses, so... :)

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I think the reason they have architects do that is so that they can have a hands-on appreciation for building; so they don't design things that are ridiculous because of their ignorance of the physical manufacturing process.

Exactly! And yeah, I've seen how you're already at that stage, but I still thought I needed to make the point just in case.

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Just for clarification on one point -- those guys you linked to are game writers. I'm a game designer. They come up with stories. I come up with mechanics and levels and maps and enemies and items. And stories too, and it's not like I'd say no to a job working as a story writer for a gaming company, but only so I could schmooze with industry insiders and make a living. (FYI, I principally write fiction. I'm hoping to start looking for a publisher for my first book mid-next year, if I keep up the pace I'm at now. I also write the stories for my games, but that's just one aspect of my larger interest in writing.)

Yup, totally knew that they're game writers. Still, though... Story can mean a lot to the actual design, which was the reasoning behind posting that. Though yeah, maybe they're a bit too separate to be put together like that.
Good luck with your book, by the way. Now you've made me curious what it's about. :)

Regarding Valve, read this: http://www.valvesoftware.com/company/Valve_Handbook_LowRes.pdf
It's a handbook for new employees, but someone working at Valve actually recommended this to anyone interested in how they work. And I just love it (though they also expect each and every employee to be competent at what they do - that's why their system works so well for them).

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I've decided something. I'm going to put all my design documents online.
!
Yes, that would be great! Don't forget, it's basically also a personal portfolio. And make sure you time stamp them in the file name! :)
Might I suggest putting them up as Google Docs in a public folder on Google Drive? That gives people the opportunity to communicate or give remarks on specific sections (through the comments system, or the chat, or a public "everyone can write in it" document).

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Also, I'm not really interested in money apart from being able to feed and house myself, and I'm a pretty low-maintenence, material-possessions-light kinda guy anyway, I just wanna see my ideas come to fruition, so if someone came along and took a bunch of my ideas and put them into their game, I'd actually be thrilled. Especially if they had the decency to throw some credit my way and say "the original idea came from this guy named Mooch, he's got this cool website with a bunch of game ideas, and when I read such-and-such, I knew I just had to include it in our game."

I like your style. If I have the time, I definitely want to try and make something together with you (or based on your designs)... but that depends on how much I'm interested in your designs, of course.

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I have literally no money, literally zero dollars and zero cents to my name, so I can't afford a dotcom, not even if I could get one for $1 a month. Guess I'll have to go with a free blog, since nobody pays attention to non-blog-style personal websites anymore. I'll post a link once I get it up.

Want me to set up a subdomain on my site for you? You can have something like mooch.tengudev.com then. I have a fairly reliable host; haven't lost anything I've uploaded in the years I've been on it. (Though obviously I still make backups, haha.)

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Ah, and you know how I said I have about five or six dozen games under my hat? I just completely pulled that idea out of nowhere; it was a gross, random guess. I dug up a few of my master lists after writing my last post, and as it turns out, I actually have over 100. I have five dozen NES-style games alone. Add to that more graphically- and programatically-sophisticated games, and the number breaks triple digits ^_^

Here's what I'm interested in: have you had other people read and criticise the designs? I should guess you have, and have also studied up yourself on improving and stuff... considering you mentioned you've written super complete ones and stuff. But still, felt the need to ask. Also hope you can handle a critical eye if the folks here start reading up on it. :P

  • Radnen
  • [*][*][*][*][*]
  • Senior Staff
  • Wise Warrior
Re: So many ideas, so little talent.
Reply #11
Wow that's a lot to read through...

Yes, I struggled with programming in Sphere. You first get to points saying things like "well, that is impossible in Sphere!". But then you realize over time that it is indeed possible.

Sphere is a toolkit for those who want to take the long, hard road. RPGMaker gives you everything you need for a run-of-the-mill RPG withour programming and figuring out a data model for players and items. In fact you can make a masterpiece in that engine as well, but I'd say it's no harder than Sphere since you'll run into even more limitations and workarounds.

You get better. Bottom line. After your first three months you'll start doing pretty good, you've already showed some decent progress here since starting up. You just need to stick to it! I think you are taking it too hard on yourself due to your condition. Relax, I too have an impediment: My left arm is shaky due to a stroke when I was 7 or 8 years old, and so it's hard for me to have fine motor control with it. So I usually type with just my right hand. Since I can't do sports or play music very well, I started to program and think and realized I'm good at something that doesn't take two hands to do. You empower yourself, and you'll do good!
If you use code to help you code you can use less code to code. Also, I have approximate knowledge of many things.

Sphere-sfml here
Sphere Studio editor here

  • Mooch
  • [*][*][*]
Re: So many ideas, so little talent.
Reply #12
DaVince: The book's a children's fantasy novel, the first in a planned series. The entire series is planned out chapter-by-chapter, it's just a matter of getting my lazy butt in gear, sitting down and actually writing the first one out.

Started reading the Valve handbook. Can't read that much text in one sitting, so I didn't finish, but by this part, I fell in love...

"Why does your desk have wheels? Think of those wheels as a symbolic
reminder that you should always be considering where you could move
yourself to be more valuable. But also think of those wheels as literal
wheels, because that's what they are, and you'll be able to actually move
your desk with them."

The book showcases a fantastic way to run a big-name gaming company with tons of employees that don't know necessarily each other, all kinds of products, etc. A proper company company. It's given me some ideas for my hypothetical structure, as well. Though of course, I wanna do things on a much smaller scale, so it'll be significantly different.

Indeed, I think I'm gonna go all-out. I mean, as long as I'm gonna be posting my game documents, I may as well not hold anything back. For you see, I don't merely want to make my own games, I don't just want to start up an indie gaming company ("troupe" is probably a better term, company suggests largeness and impersonal-ness, employees in the triple digits; I'm aiming for a core contingent of about a dozen like-minded people).

I wanna make my own consoles.

Think about it. With the level of technology and manufacturing processes we have today, one could produce a console similar to the NES for probably just a few bucks. The console could then be sold to consumers for, say, $20, games could retail for $3~5. And considering how popular retro-style indie games are on modern consoles, there's a huge market for this kinda thing.

I mean, I'm not totally unrealistic in my dreams, I'm going to focus on making some indie games for PC and/or modern consoles first, but the goal is to make a brand-new NES-esque console.

Why?

I wanna start over. Start from the beginning. Start out making games for hardware with very limited power, and work up from there. Make an SNES-esque console some years down the line, then an N64/PS1-esque. Move up through technology the way the great gaming companies did.

There's just this ineffable magic and soul to the likes of Mario and Link and Sonic and Megaman that isn't replicated today, even in retro-style indie games. Part of it, I think, is that they started on such limited hardware.

Most of my games are designed for my own consoles that I've dreamt up, anyway, and they have unique controllers and features that would be lost if produced on a modern console. I'm willing to "pre-port" some of my games for my consoles over to modern consoles, especially in the beginning when I'm just trying to get games out, make a name for myself, get the troupe together. But ultimately, I wanna make my own consoles. (Or at least try ^_^)

So here's what I'm gonna do, as far as putting my designs online...

1) Write a troupe manifesto for the sort of indie gaming company I want to start.

2) Write a document describing my NES-style console in excrutiating detail. Technical specifications, sketches of the deck and controllers, etc.

3) Make a master list of all the games I've designed for my NES-style console (that's the five dozen I mentioned earlier) along with single-line, bare-bones descriptions (i.e. if I'd come up with Chrono Trigger, I would describe it as "16-bit RPG focused on time-travel and multiple endings.").

4) One by one, post game documents for each title. These will describe every mechnic explicitly, contain necessary lists (objects, items, monsters, whatever), sample levels and such.

A few important points...

First, though I'll post about those NES-esque games as if they were going to be released on my console (with its unique controller), I'm more than willing to produce the titles for PC and/or consoles first. Again, aiming high, aiming to realize my ultimate dream, but willing to negotiate with reality.

Second, concurrently with the NES-esque game documents, I'll post documents for games I specifically designed for existing consoles or PC. So it won't be all purely 8-bit stuff. Fame Frame, for example, is designed for Wii U, I've got a few designs for tablet/phone games, some for PC, some specifically for Sphere, actually ^_^

Third, I think I sorta misrepresented myself earlier. I said my dream job at my dream indie gaming company would involve managing others, coming up with the game stuff (maps, enemies, spells, etc.), all that jazz. I'm far from a control freak, though. I do very much appreciate the value of a team effort.

Aside from a few very personal projects (including the two games I've already 100% fleshed out), I don't expect to literally be solely responsible for all game content for any game. I not only expect, but highly desire everyone to contribute to multiple aspects of a game.

Yeah, somebody's main job might be coding, that might be ostensibly why they're part of the troupe, but they absolutely can and I absolutely want them to, say, design a boss fight, or a couple levels, or even just come up with names for NPCs or write some dialogue.

In my dream scenario, though everybody doesn't have to do everything, anybody can do anything. I myself almost certainly won't be writing any code, producing any graphics (though defs producing copious ugly sketches to get my ideas across :p) or anything of that nature. I'll exclusively be designing mechanics and items and levels and writing story and dialogue. But anyone else can contribute that kinda stuff to any project they wish. Even come up with entire games of their own.

As long as I can get some of my games out, I'll be happy :)

But enough about that, I'm rambling. I'll write it all up pretty and explain my vision precisely in my manifesto. Uh, though I should say, the most important thing is, this is just for the sake of holding nothing back and going all-out. I might join someone else's indie company or something, I might never make consoles, I'm just gonna describe everything because, well, why not?

Yeah, I'd love to work on a game with you. Tried Sir Boingers the other day and liked it, and of course I had a lot of ideas for where to go for a full-game version of Flippin' Matrix. When I first write up the master list of games, lemme know if any of the one-line descriptions (or even game titles) particularly catches your eye and I'll be sure to get to it sooner rather than later.

'cause as I said, it's gonna take a good long while to get all my docs out, just from the sheer volume. I'll likely complete my first fully-solo project before writing up even two or three dozen docs.

That'd be awesome not having to start up my own blog, having a subdomain on tengudev ^_^ How would that work, though? Would I give you html files and images and docs and stuff and you post them up, would I use Wordpress and just have a username/password for the subdomain and be able to upload things myself, or what?

Oh, and I have actually not had anyone read or critique any of my games thus far, because I've never shown them off to anyone. Partly 'cause I'm pretty private with my creative-y stuff (haven't shown any of my books-to-be to anyone, either), mostly because most of what I have written down about my games is on loose scraps of paper, sketches here and there, files on various computers and harddrives. I'm a pretty disorganized person. Also, I tend to write things very esoterically and incompletely.

I compose music a bit, for example, but I don't write typical sheet music 'cause I can't get used to it. I have my own way of writing music that nobody would understand unless I explained it to them. It's the same way with my game docs -- lots of stuff other people wouldn't understand, so I basically have to write everything from scratch. Though I still have all my sketches and stuff.

I can indeed take criticism, listen to advice, modify and rework my ideas, incorporate suggestions and so forth. I actually expect to meet some modicum of success with my writing career because of this; tons of writers go looking for publishers for their first books with this attitude of, "what I have here is a divine, untouchable masterpiece, and I'm offering you the priceless chance to publish it for me as-is." They fail almost without exception (*coughAnneRice*). My attitude is gonna be, "I've got a great story here and it's well-written; pair me up with a good editor and a good publicist we can polish it into something that'll be successful."

Radnen: Whoa, never knew that about you. You have my condolences and congratulations; sucks you've got a bum arm, awesome how much you've done with one hand. Jeeze, shift- and alt-ing stuff must be friggin' annoying.

My coding improvements thus far have been largely thanks to you. I'm working on a solo project I'm not gonna post about until I have a demo, and I'm doing a lot of OOP! It's as simplistic a game as you can get, but still, I'm definitely gonna stick with it. For as long as my body holds out, anyway, heh.

Myself: You just spent an hour and a half writing this post. You're insane.

  • Radnen
  • [*][*][*][*][*]
  • Senior Staff
  • Wise Warrior
Re: So many ideas, so little talent.
Reply #13
Quote from: mooch
There's just this ineffable magic and soul to the likes of Mario and Link and Sonic and Megaman that isn't replicated today, even in retro-style indie games. Part of it, I think, is that they started on such limited hardware.


Amen. I keep trying to tell my brother that 2D pixel art is better than 3D realistic looking games in terms of beauty, but of course I do realize beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But what is art if to not imitate a photograph? 2D pixel art uses colors in very distinct and imaginative ways. You create a represent of life - not a recreation. Games like Chrono Trigger looked so good because you recognize things like trees and barrels and mundane things in a purely fantastical light, a light that makes you think and see the world differently. It's almost indescribable: I'd rather look at a pixelated barrel than a high quality 3D rendered one.

Of course that is also the limited-palette pixel art I'm talking about: the ones that use dithering, and colors in unique ways (not the modern pixel art that uses photoshop brushes and look messy).

In terms of trying to do the same thing in the realm of 3D, I think cel-shaded games do a good job or the games with more cartoon-y styles (like the recent LoZ a link between worlds game).
If you use code to help you code you can use less code to code. Also, I have approximate knowledge of many things.

Sphere-sfml here
Sphere Studio editor here

  • Fat Cerberus
  • [*][*][*][*][*]
  • Global Moderator
  • miniSphere Developer
Re: So many ideas, so little talent.
Reply #14

Amen. I keep trying to tell my brother that 2D pixel art is better than 3D realistic looking games in terms of beauty, but of course I do realize beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But what is art if to not imitate a photograph? 2D pixel art uses colors in very distinct and imaginative ways. You create a represent of life - not a recreation. Games like Chrono Trigger looked so good because you recognize things like trees and barrels and mundane things in a purely fantastical light, a light that makes you think and see the world differently. It's almost indescribable: I'd rather look at a pixelated barrel than a high quality 3D rendered one.


This, so much.  This is the reason most SNES games have aged so well, compared to the likes of, say, Ocarina of Time--which, while still an awesome game for many reasons, nevertheless looks like shit and anyone who says otherwise is hopelessly biased.

That said, I disagree with the notion that polygonal graphics are inherently inferior to good pixel art.  Just look at Zelda: ABLW. Despite the top-down perspective the whole thing is 3D-rendered and the game not only looks awesome, but successfully captures the spirit of the 2D original.
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